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Posts Tagged ‘cell’

Landing in Inhambane, Mozambique, the first thing you see is the blue Vodacom sign:  ‘Welcome to Inhambane – a land covered by palm trees and the best cellular network’.  I don’t usually believe ads and this time was no exception. But I have to say, it seems to be true. My sim card is actually on mCel, not Vodacom, but the coverage is still damn good.  And the two cell phone companies are everywhere. I’m not sure which I saw more of – yellow Frelimo t-shirts (elections were last week), yellow mCel kiosks or blue Vodacom kiosks.

Which reminds me that I saw a statistic last week saying that more people have mobile phones than latrines.  And I’m not sure how I feel about that….  And then I start thinking about the hierarchy of personal needs – which perhaps needs some revising.  So does communication rank higher now than toilets?  What about food? I was certainly more worried about getting online than about eating for the past 4 days (as a vegetarian, your choice is limited unless you really make an effort).  I mean, at least I got to complain about the 4 days of fried eggs on Twitter…. but what if it were access to food in general? Where would I put my effort? hmmm. I digress….

My travel diet (in addition to the eggs) has been around 5 hours of mobile internet on my laptop a day (skype, email, blogging, Twitter, maps, google translate, and a few doses of Facebook thrown in), and several mobile internet snacks from my phone itself in between. I’ve gone through about 600 credits in 5 days, or around $4/day.  I fully recognize that is expensive for someone who is not earning a US salary, but I love that I was able to just purchase a sim card, put it in my phone, hook up my phone as a modem, and ta-dah.

Yes I’m using a ‘smart phone’ (Nokia E-63), but my point is that it’s much easier to use your phone as a modem in Mozambique than it is in the US (seems the latest i-phone update disables that so I’m afraid to download the latest update) or in the other African countries that I’ve been in over the past year.  Compared to Cameroon, Senegal and Kenya where we had to purchase a special data package and get help/permission from the phone company (or were we just not doing it right? It does get easier to figure out the more you do this stuff). In any case, internet hardly worked once we finally got connected. So in that sense, Mozambique is an internet junkie’s dream.

I asked about internet as a precursor to the social media session of the Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media (YETAM) training of trainers workshop yesterday.  We are working from a secondary school about 30 km outside of the town of Maxixe, where I expected internet would be nil (and it is, except by mobile phone modem).   Several teachers and partner organization members from the area are participating. Starting on Sunday, for two weeks they’ll work with youth to use arts and media as tools in the community development process. The same arts and media are a way for youth to put themselves, their community and their issues on the global map by uploading the photos, drawings and videos they will make to the web.

As an example during yesterday’s session, I Googled the name of the school.  All we found in the first couple of pages was Maxixe and nearby towns listed, with content related to tourist beaches. There was also a blog by Lauren, the Peace Corp Volunteer who is teaching there.  Several months back when we were planning the training, Lauren’s blog was the only information I was able to specifically find about the school and area.  Because of her blog, I was able to connect her and our local staff to work together on the whole training.  After the YETAM training, the ideas is that people will be able to find information created by the community and youth themselves, from their own perspective.

I’m really excited about the good internet, because maybe then the whole process can be done from the community – including the uploading and subtitling of the videos (usually is done from the Plan office in the US due to slow connections).  That will be huge in terms of community and youth ownership.  Im crossing my fingers that we can make this happen.  Or we’ll have to sue the land of palm trees and the best cellular network for false advertising :-).

Related posts:

It’s all part of the ICT Jigsaw: Plan Mozambique ICT4D workshops
Putting Cumbana on the Map


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